New firm to do some city computer work

Board picks Digicon

previous contractor files a complaint

November 16, 2006|By John Fritze | John Fritze,sun reporter

After an ethics scandal that led to a continuing investigation of City Council President Sheila Dixon, Baltimore's Board of Estimates selected a new firm yesterday to conduct a portion of the city's computer work, Herndon, Va.-based Digicon Corp.

The three-year, $7.6 million contract will pay for computer services at City Hall such as network maintenance and support. The work was previously performed by Annapolis-based TeleCommunications Systems Inc., which filed a complaint with the board yesterday and alleged that the new contract was unfairly awarded.

Robert C. Douglas, an attorney for TeleCommunications, said the city's process for evaluating the proposals was flawed because, he said, statements made in Digicon's proposal were not verified and the companies were assessed with different scoring systems.

"What we're really asking the city to do is to take these warning signs and to look into them," Douglas said. "Based on our review, it appears there's a lot of smoke that suggests that there may be a fire."

TeleCommunications used Union Technologies, also known as Utech, as a minority subcontractor on an earlier contract for city computer services. Utech relinquished its status as a minority-owned business this year after a series of articles in The Sun showed that the firm was honoring its city subcontracts by hiring others to do most of its work. Such pass-through arrangements are prohibited by the city's minority business law, and the city had asked for proof that Utech was abiding by the ordinance.

No one suggested yesterday that TeleCommunications was not selected for the new contract because of the Utech scandal. However, Dixon recused herself from voting on the measure and did not speak on the issue.

Digicon will provide help-desk support, network design and maintenance and other computer support, city officials said. The company selected Baltimore-based Early Morning Software and DevNix and Middle River-based Applied Technology Services as minority subcontractors. Those companies will receive 49 percent of the contract amount, according to Board of Estimates documents.

Early Morning Software had been selected to conduct computer work in May 2005 but was terminated two months later at the request of Dixon's office. At the time, Dixon's former campaign chairman, Dale G. Clark, was also being paid to manage council computers, though he did not have a contract.

Early Morning Software, along with two other companies - Comcast and Snell Enterprises of Columbia - confirmed that they received subpoenas earlier this year as part of the investigation by the state prosecutor's office.

john.fritze@baltsun.com

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